Chris Rowley: Staff involvement with benefits will increase engagement

Motivation engagement

The subject of employee motivation programmes in the workplace, specifically whether it is important to garner staff opinion when putting programmes in place, remains important and topical. The questions it raises include: should employers involve staff in the design and roll-out of programmes? Would this have an effect on engagement with schemes and, ultimately, engagement with work and the organisation? The short answer is ‘yes’ to these three questions.

In this context, motivational strategies would include being seen as a ‘good’ socially and ethically responsible employer with excellent working practices and policies, and corporate and social responsibility (CSR) programmes, volunteering days, charity or fundraising events, local community work, as well as retail voucher schemes, and also benefits. Benefits can be used to motivate, especially in an era of low inflation and pay rises, not least because these are not only extrinsic rewards, but also have intrinsic reward components to them.

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However, research has shown that many staff rarely correctly guess the real worth of benefits to them or their cost to organisations, and that they may even be deemed irrelevant and unnecessary at stages of recipients’ lives. To address this lack of line of sight between benefit and cost, a flexible benefits scheme, provided directly or outsourced to third-party providers, can engage staff because it increases staff involvement in choice: to tailor personalised benefit packages, within fixed overall budgets, of costed items from a menu to suit needs and lifestyles better. Even more engagement comes as these benefits may be varied over time as the staff member’s perceived greatest needs change, for example, offering more holidays versus pension. So, the impact of motivation strategies varies over personal life cycles and personal circumstances.

Chris Rowley is professor of human resource management at Cass Business School